After receiving a number of complaints claiming its Electronic Voting Machines are vulnerable to hacking, the Election Commission has decided to hold a “hackathon” from the first week of May to test them. Anyone wanting to try and test the security of EVMs can take part in the hackathon, the Election Commission said, calling it an “open challenge”, according to PTI. The contest will be open for a week or 10 days and will have various levels.

“From the first week of May, experts, scientists, technocrats can come for a week or 10 days and try to hack the machines,” an official told NDTV. Before that, the Election Commission will meet leaders of all major parties to demonstrate the security of the machines.The organisation is yet to announce the dates for both the hackathon and the demonstration.

On Tuesday, 16 Opposition parties had urged the EC to conduct future elections using the paper ballot system, saying allegations of EVMs being tampered with had created a “deep-seated trust deficit” on their reliability. “It has shattered the faith of the people in the fairness of the electoral process...It is incumbent upon the Election Commission to allay those fears and apprehensions,” they had said in a memorandum submitted to the Commission.

The parties had also criticised the Centre for not providing the Commission with funds to put in place enough Voter Verified Paper Audit Trial machines for the 2019 Lok Sabha election. VVPAT machines dispense a slip with the symbol of the party the voter has chosen on the EVM, which proves that the machine has recorded the vote.

The memorandum had also highlighted the controversy in Ater constituency in Madhya Pradesh’s Bhind district, where a VVPAT machine had purportedly dispensed a confirmation slip with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s symbol even though the electoral officer carrying out the demonstration had chosen the Samajwadi Party. A committee set up by the Election Commission later found that there was no truth in these reports. Subsequently, an independent investigation by also suggested that the controversy had apparently originated from misreporting by one newspaper. The Opposition, however, had said that the Centre’s silence on the matter “raises serious doubts about the intent of the government and its commitment to the conduct of free and fair elections”.